Elon Musk’s X sues media watchdog Media Matters over report on Nazi content

Social media platform accuses media watchdog of manipulating algorithm to drive away advertisers.

X has experienced an exodus of advertisers since Media Matters published a report saying ads for major brands were running beside content touting Nazism [File: Noah Berger/AP]

Social media company X is suing a media watchdog group over a report accusing the platform of placing advertisements from major corporations next to neo-Nazi and white nationalist content.

In a lawsuit filed on Monday, X accuses Media Matters of manipulating the site’s algorithm to “drive advertisers from the platform and destroy X Corp”.

Media Matters “maliciously” portrayed ads appearing next to neo-Nazi and white nationalist material as typical when it actually followed certain accounts exclusively and “endlessly” refreshed the feed to produce the desired content, according to the suit filed in federal court in Texas.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, announced shortly afterwards that his office would probe Media Matters over “potential fraudulent activity”.

X owner Elon Musk had over the weekend threatened to file a “thermonuclear” lawsuit against Media Matters and anyone “who colluded in this fraudulent attack on our company”.

X, formerly Twitter, has experienced an exodus of advertisers since Media Matters published a report last week that said that ads for major brands including Apple, IBM and Oracle have run beside content that “touts Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party”.

The advertiser exodus, which includes Apple, Disney, IBM and Lions Gate Entertainment, also comes amid controversy over Musk’s endorsement last week of a post accusing Jewish people of stoking hatred against whites and supporting immigration by “hordes of minorities”.

Musk’s comment that the post was the “actual truth” prompted a firestorm of criticism, including from the White House, which condemned his “abhorrent promotion of anti-Semitic and racist hate”.

X did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Al Jazeera.

X Chief Executive Linda Yaccarino said in a post on Monday that “not a single authentic user” on X saw ads next to the content referenced by Media Matters and that data “wins over manipulation or allegations”.

“Don’t be manipulated. Stand with X,” Yaccarino wrote on X.

Musk, who bought Twitter for $44bn last year, said in a post referring to the Texas probe that fraud carried both criminal and civil penalties, after earlier describing Media Matters as “pure evil”.

Media Matters, founded in 2004 by US Democratic Party operative David Brock, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Media Matters President and CEO Angelo Carusone said in a post on X that the “frivolous lawsuit” was intended to bully the platform’s critics into silence.

“Media Matters stands behind its reporting and look forward to winning in court. Onward!” Carusone said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies